By Cameron McWhirter/Cmcwhirter@ajc.com
Common Cause Georgia, the nonpartisan group promoting open and honest government, issued a position paper Wednesday blasting ethics legislation proposed by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).
“We had high hopes that a turnover in leadership at the Capitol would result in a new attitude about lobbying and use of campaign funds,” said Bill Bozarth, the group’s executive director. “The general climate is definitely better, but that hasn’t produced strong ethics legislation yet. We’ll be working hard to get Senate support for strengthening the bill when it gets over there.”
Bozarth argued that Ralston’s legislation, which has yet to pass out of the House Rules Committee or the House, would not require members of state boards and authorities to file financial disclosure report or exempt lobbyists from reporting money they spend on travel, meals, and hotels for legislators attending meetings.
The law would require those expenditures be reported by legislators as campaign expenses. Common Cause also opposes a proposed rule that would make anyone filing a frivolous ethics complaint to be liable for a defendant’s legal fees if the case is thrown out.
The proposed legislation, now in Senate Bill 17, is far weaker than ethics legislation first proposed at the beginning of the session. Those proposals included caps on how much lobbyists could spend on legislators and requirements for legislators to report all gifts they receive.
Under current law, lobbyists have no limits on how much they can spend on legislators and legislators do not have to report gifts. Lobbyists, however, are required to report gifts they give to legislators.